We’ve all seen the headlines: home sales slowing, prices dropping, inventories rising. Unfortunately, too many people are getting the wrong impression about the actual market conditions. Yes, the headlines can be stated as factually accurate, even if statistically exaggerated, but they leave out major pieces of information that must be considered.
Real estate is fundamentally driven by change; personal, economic and professional. Let’s look at the latter two first and see if there is any reason not to be excited by our current real estate market. Even in the face of the recent declines in the stock market, by all economic measures, all our economies are doing phenomenally well. Corporate profits and earnings are terrific. Company growth projections are all strong. Unemployment is at something between a 50 year and all-time low, given the growth in our population, locally and nationally. Consumer confidence and corporate confidences are at or near record highs. In our region, every major employer and many small employers are scrambling to find and lock down new employees as well as space to grow their businesses in. Start-ups, angel investors, innovators, disruptors all want to be in our local area. Our largest employers are asking for, building and tying up huge amounts of new or yet-to-be built office spaces in Seattle and our Eastside cities; to the tune of multi-million new square feet. This is besides the major remodel/expansion Microsoft is doing and the construction of the Eastside’s Spring District. With that much growth, new employers and employees will be needed and are jumping to be here.
Wages have been rising and even with some flattening of that in recent months, the present and upcoming demand coupled with our low unemployment means upward pressures and movement in wages and incomes in our area. Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are competing to keep, find or recruit top talent. Wages will be a key factor. With all of these companies increasing their presence, in huge ways on the Eastside, there is nothing but optimism to be had for local economics. Support, ancillary and spinoff businesses will continue to blossom and grow too.
So why is there concern instead of jubilation that home prices have come off their peak values? We should see this as a fantastic opportunity for anyone with a need or desire to change their housing situation. If you’d stay in your new home for the next 5+ years, then what is your real fear? Buying a house should be driven by your personal needs, not by trends. Yes, the present trend may be downward but for those with a sense of vision, you’ll see the soon-to-be increasing demand for housing in our area and the certainty of home prices rising back to and above the peaks we saw this past spring. Visionaries will also see the increasing interest rates we’ve had and will continue to see for mortgages. I’m not fearful of a major change upward on rates, but another ½ to 3/4 percent is likely by the end of next year. For our local loan amounts that’s $200-$300/month. Why not capture these savings if you can?
Headlines create fear but looking behind the headlines shows a very bright future coming our way. Current circumstances allow home owners to make contingent offers and still negotiate terms for their purchase. Prices have come down in most areas and price range by 10-15%. Yes, it’s possible they could go lower; it’s also possible you could negotiate your own offer lower. What is also likely is that the quantity of homes for sale, available options for you to call home are the best we’ve seen in 3 years. The gap between your present home and your dream home, or even next-step home, up or down, is more affordable now than it’s been in the last 2 years. Why would you be afraid to act when the opportunity you’ve been asking, even begging for, is here? Because you think the home prices may drop further? Are you selling all your stocks because their values took dramatic drops this week? Of course not. Those with vision are determining where and what to buy even further in on. That’s the same mentality and perspective you should be having with the housing market. Now, not last spring, is the time to be a buyer; even if you need to sell before you buy.
Oh, your home value has dropped so you’d rather sit still than capture a value higher than at any time except March to May of this year? You should question why you’d really want to sell. If you’re going to stay in the local area, then selling and buying off the peak prices is a great opportunity; not one to mourn you’ve lost out on.
All real arrows are pointing up for our local economic and housing trends. Don’t be afraid to step away from the herd and capture the opportunity you want; there’s never been a better time to lead your way forward. Visionaries see the true and future realities while others wait to be led by trends. Which are you?
While the headline stories seem cataclysmic, the reality is still that we are seeing a shift from our escalating home values. We’ve come off the peak numbers by 3-5% but much of this is from buyers bidding over the asking prices. Where list prices were and where they are today are only 1-2% different. Home values have still risen in a year over year comparison. That said, there are definitely opportunities for buyers that we’ve not seen in the last few years. While some see no reason to buy, thinking the market will continue to drop, we still have amazingly strong growth in the general Seattle area for population, jobs and wages. This means any “drop” is more likely driven by mentality than reality factors and can therefore shift back upwards or flatten quickly. This means when you find that new home opportunity, you should make your move on it now. You won’t be selling in 1-2 years, so any fluctuation is somewhat meaningless; just as you don’t sell a stock you bought last week, just because it dropped 2-3% in value this week. Buy your opportunity while others hesitate.
For home sellers, the peak values are likely behind you but we’re still at ascending values when compared to a year ago and well above values of 2,3,5, 8 years ago. Don’t put your life on hold because you wanted 2-3% more for your home. Appreciate the gains and wisdom of your investment and if it’s time to move, then make the move with confidence that you achieved an investment goal you likely hadn’t planned to turn out as well as it has. Next January to March should be a strong market for Sellers, so if moving NOW isn’t the priority but soon is, then make this your time frame target.
Here’s the latest area stats for your review.
We’ve been seeing a shift in the feel and overall tempo of the market since around Mother’s Day weekend of this spring. The statistics are a bit slow to show some of this as many sales have 30-60 day closing schedules, especially heading into the end of the school years. Still, it’s good to see how the markets around Washington are performing. Windermere is fortunate to have acclaimed economist Matthew Gardner on our team to gather and track all of this data for us. Here’s his latest report.
The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions.
The Washington State economy added 83,900 new jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of 2.5%. This is a slowdown from the last quarter, but employment growth remains well above the national rate of 1.6%. Employment gains continue to be robust in the private sector, which was up by 2.8%. The public sector (government) grew by a more modest 1.1%.
The strongest growth sectors were Retail Trade and Construction, which both rose by 4.8%. Significant growth was also seen in the Education & Health Services and Information sectors, which rose by 3.9% and 3.4%, respectively.
The State’s unemployment rate was 4.7%, down from 4.8% a year ago. Washington State will continue adding jobs for the balance of the year and I anticipate total job growth for 2018 will be around 80,000, representing a total employment growth rate of 2.4%.
Home Sales Activity
There were 23,209 home sales during the second quarter of 2018. This is a drop of 2.3% compared to the same period a year ago.
Clallam County saw sales rise the fastest relative to the same period a year ago, with an increase of 12.6%. Jefferson County also saw significant gains in sales at 11.1%.
The number of homes for sale last quarter was down by a nominal 0.3% when compared to the second quarter of 2017, but up by 66% when compared to the first quarter of this year. Much has been mentioned regarding the growth in listings, but it was not region-wide. King County saw a massive 31.7% increase in inventory, though all but three of the other counties covered in this report saw the number of listings drop compared to a year ago.
The takeaway from this data is that while some counties are seeing growth in listings — which will translate into sales down the road — the market is still out of balance.
As inventory is still fairly scarce, growth in home prices continues to trend well above the long-term average. Prices in Western Washington rose 12.2% over last year to $526,398.
Home prices continue to trend higher across Western Washington, but the pace of growth has started to slow. This should please would-be buyers. The spring market came late but inventory growth in the expensive King County market will give buyers more choices and likely lead to a slowing down of price growth as bidding wars continue to taper.
When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Mason County, which was up 17.4%. Eleven other counties experienced double-digit price growth.
Mortgage rates, which had been rising significantly since the start of the year, have levelled off over the past month. I believe rising rates are likely the reason that inventory levels are rising, as would-be sellers believe that this could be the right time to cash out. That said, the slowing in rate increases has led buyers to believe that rates will not jump soon, which gives them a little more breathing room. I do not expect to see any possible slowdown in demand until mortgage rates breach the 5% mark.
Days on Market
The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by seven days compared to the same quarter of 2017.
King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 13 days to sell. Every county in the region other than Clallam saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop when compared to the same period a year ago.
Across the entire region, it took an average of 41 days to sell a home in the second quarter of this year. This is down from 48 days in the second quarter of 2017 and down by 20 days when compared to the first quarter of 2018.
Although we did see some inventory increases when compared to the first quarter of the year, we are essentially at the same level of homes on the market as a year ago. The market has yet to reach equilibrium and I certainly do not expect to reach that point until sometime in 2019.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the second quarter of 2018, I have moved the needle very slightly towards buyers, but it remains firmly a seller’s market. This shift is a function of price growth tapering very slightly, as well as the expectation that we should see more homes come on the market as we move through the balance of the year.
Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.
See the following report for an update on market prices, inventory levels and comparison between eastside areas. While the market, as a whole, has improving inventory levels, what almost all areas are still seeing is a lack of homes for sale in the $400-750K range. We have pretty high levels of homes above $1.5M but that’s above what the average or median buyer can afford in our market. While sales are still strong, this inventory level will not be sustainable and we will likely see this price point experience weakness in the coming year to two. This means if you’d like to sell and capture these values and market demand, now or at least by Q1 of 2019 will be the time to sell.
Similar to the last 3 years, the market appreciation takes place in the first quarter of the year, then plateaus and remains stable to slight declines for the balance of the year. With some rise in interest rates we may see a bit more sustained demand but rising inventory usually hampers prices for the balance of the year.
Enjoy the report and let me know if you’d like to talk more specifically about your home, market area or specific interests.
Below is a general market update for Western Washington. As with all general area statistics, some of the biggest changes are minimized by the scope of the area selected. What most buyers and agents are seeing the most is the lack of more affordable priced homes. If your definition is under $250K-that market is almost entirely gone in King & Snohomish counties. Here’s a few points that show the declines in available homes. We are seeing, as is typical this time of year, an increase in overall inventory and this will include some moderately priced homes. What we are also seeing is a moderation in overall quantity of offers and the final sales prices not being quite as far over asking prices as we’d seen earlier this year.
Here’s a market stats update for our general Western Washington area. What gets missed in most market data is the decline in moderate priced homes.
On the Eastside homes priced at $750K or less are down 30%; 24% for homes under $1M.
In Seattle the decline for homes under $500K was 64%; 27% for homes between $500-750K while homes priced between $1M-2.5M are up 85%
Snohomish County saw an 11% drop in home sales under $750K but 17% for homes between $250-500K. While home owners are happy to see strong market appreciation, it’s freezing many home owners in their homes who would like to move but don’t want to pay these newer home prices
Snohomish County median home price is now $505,975, up 15% from 2017
Seattle’s median closed price is up to $819K, up 13% and the Eastside price is $943K, up 7%
Most of us will make resolutions with no expectations or true intentions of keeping them in the New Year. However, if one of your life goals for 2018 is to buy a home, I hope you will make and keep this resolution. Resolve to find an agent who is willing to listen to your needs and wants and offer you true solutions and strategies to achieve your goals. You need an agent who has the heart of a teacher, true market knowledge and the ability to communicate this to you. You also need to be willing to listen to them. Often we have to tell you news or information you don’t want to hear but need to. Every market has challenges and you need to understand them to succeed. You need to know what it takes to write a successful offer, have a strong picture of your abilities ready to present to a Seller’s agent and what parts of your picture need improving before you can or should write an offer.
There are lots of information sources on homes that you can find on line. This doesn’t make you an expert on getting to buy any one home. Ask any of the buyers who have been “trying” to buy a house for the last 1-2 years. They weren’t truly informed and prepared to buy in the present market, nor committed to work with the right agent. You need an agent to help you with the details of your picture and situation and one who is able to effectively communicate with you and the agent representing the Seller.
Many buyers think they will benefit from working with the Seller’s agent. This is most often not the case as this is a huge sign to the seller’s agent that you’re not truly prepared or committed to buying or you’d have an agent and team of people ready to represent you. Many Seller’s agents do not or will not practice dual agency, attempting to represent the seller and buyer in a home sale, so you will often be disappointed when they say no and you aren’t prepared to act on the home you want. Yes, you can go call any agent at that point, but now the seller’s agent still knows you aren’t truly prepared to act and this new agent is rarely aware of you, your strengths, abilities or intentions. You may think you know more about the home or market than “any” agent, and you may; but if you find the right agent for you, that agent will be able to help you understand the actual market and what it takes to get the home you want. What may seem like meaningless nuances to you often turn out to be critical differentiators to Sellers and their agents. Who your lender is; where your money is; how your earnest money matches your down payment and purchase price and many other details are often overlooked in preparing an offer. They matter.
An agent you want to work with will help you write better offers, clarify what steps you need to take to win and make sure you’re fully prepared with financing, source of funds, timing and several aspects of writing your offer so you can reduce your frustrations and win in the market. They might also surprise you and point out something you need to know about the home or neighborhood you think you want to buy in so you aren’t spending excess monies on home inspections or discovering, after you own the home, something you wish you’d known before you agreed to buy it. Most of us have sat through hundreds of home inspections and can point out items you may want to know before making your buying decision.
How do you find and agent like this? Maybe by contacting the agent who wrote this article or by asking people you know, who were truly happy with the agent they worked with–not because the agent gave them half of their commission, but truly happy with the knowledge, communication and assistance they provided them in their buying process. Talk to a few of these agents; see if you fit and communicate well with each other and are willing to commit to each other. Don’t expect and ask the agent to commit to you if you’re not truly willing to commit to them. It’s a lot of time and effort to educate buyers on the market, processes and nuances as well as finding the right home and what it will take to write the winning offer. If you walk away from the agent, they got nothing for their time and you still gained much. So, commit to working with one agent and stick with them unless they prove to not be holding up their end of the bargain in effort and actions. You can terminate the relationship if that turns out to be the case but it’s more likely you’ll succeed due to their guidance and you will save yourself a lot of frustration.
A similar situation exists for home sellers and those wanting or needing to sell a home and buy a new one. Many more questions need to be asked, answered and strategized around but all of them will be better addressed with the help of a great agent. Yes, your home can sell without any agent but did you truly get the best result from the sale? Doubtful. There are thousands of agents in our area but less than 20% of us do nearly 80% of the business, so resolve to find someone who will truly help you. It’s worth the effort and resolution
Most buyers need to borrow money to buy their homes. While interest rates do impact buyer’s ability to purchase, so does the amount of money they need to borrow. Most lenders plan to sell the loans into the secondary money market, typically FNMA (Fannie Mae) or FHMLC (Freddie Mac). These government sponsored entities set loan limits, how large of a loan they will buy and what the required down payment amounts and loan criteria must be met for them to buy these loans.
This week these groups have announced new loan limits for our area for loans originated in 2018. With our rising home prices, these increases in loan limits will allow buyers needing financing to buy higher priced homes while still keeping their down payments in the 3, 5, 10 or 20% down range. The current loan limit for conforming loans is $424,100 and will be raising to $453,100 for 2018. They also offer loans, called “high balance” loans, typically requiring 5+ percent down payments and this limit is raising from the $592,250 to $667,000.
These increases will help buyers afford our increased home prices and keep their down payment requirements in a more manageable range. For those that need or want to buy more expensive homes and needing to borrow larger amounts, these loans are still available and are labeled “Jumbo” loans. Many local and national lending options are still available for these loans. The down payments vary with credit scores and other factors and can offer competitive interest rates as well but are not sold off in the normal secondary markets, so loan terms vary with the lenders offering them.
If you need assistance on finding the right loan program for you, feel free to give me a call and we can find a solution that fits your needs best.
Windermere’s local economist, Matthew Gardner, does a great job of monitoring and reporting on the economic health, trends and real estate related information in our region and breaking out specific areas too. See the info link below for the latest updates. Our region continues to experience record job and population growth, leading the country for the past full year. While it has created many issues in finding homes to rent or buy, it has also helped create great wealth for those of us currently owning a home and/or investment properties in the region.
It seems likely we’ll have another reasonably strong year for market activity but not with the degree of appreciation we’ve seen for the past 2 years. While some property types and homes have had 35% + appreciation over the past 2 years, the prognosis is for only 5-8% appreciation in 2018. This could mean the first half of 2018 will be the last opportunity to sell in to a strong market. I’m not expecting prices to fall in any near term basis but we’ve been seeing price flatten for most of the area since June and the spring will likely be the last spike up in pricing. If you want to capture this, it may be time to work on your home projects and be ready to come on the market by February to get the best exposure and strength of market conditions to work in your favor.
Buyers will likely find continuing upward pressure on interest rates but will also find prices leveling off as the summer arrives. At least that’s what my crystal bald head seems to be seeing. Let me know if I can help you with any planning or specific market conditions affecting you.
Every week, often daily, I’m asked, “Paul, can you believe how much ……, home prices are rising, over asking price bids are climbing too, quantity of people came thru an open house, submitted offers on a home……. On and on it goes. The simple and short answer is “No, I cant believe it.” I can rationalize it, but in many cases I can’t support the rises. They are just too crazy to believe. But is it real and can “it” continue—it appears so.
Pricing is always a matter of supply and demand and we are in a time of exceptional demand. Rents are continuing to rise and we are seeing 1,000+ people a week moving in to the central Puget Sound area of Seattle and the Eastside. With interest rates still in the excellent range of just over 4%, it’s easy to see why people want to buy vs. rent. People who have been renting want to buy. People who lost their homes in the recession want to buy. Seniors aren’t leaving the area like they did 10 & 20 years ago when they retired, so they want to sell and buy. Millennials are buying and all kinds of “lateral” buyers want to sell and buy–changing locations, shortening commutes, increasing or decreasing their home sizes in their current areas, etc. These are all huge buyer groups and they all want to buy. We aren’t even talking about the investor buyers, who, as most agents and active buyers in the market see, are out shopping and buying in huge quantities.
So when will we find homes for all these people? It is doubtful to be any time soon. Builders are building as fast as they can but often not in areas where more buyers want to be. Those that are willing to accept longer commutes can find options but in the overall, still at very low overall availability. Prices on new construction homes in the major urban areas can be found but not commonly under the $1M mark. We are rapidly pricing many buyers out of the market and this may lead to some exodus or reduction in the quantity of people moving here. Still with our region being home to Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Boeing, Costco, Expedia and a myriad of technology, medical research and Bio-tech companies, it’s not realistic to think this inward flow will be stalling out too soon.
This means that home prices should continue to rise over the next several years. Will there be a top? Undoubtedly. When and where is only a guess for anyone. Some analysts point to expected business cycle patterns to say 2018 will see a slow down but that’s a relative term, slow down. With our region now topping the highest home value appreciation for 6 straight months, what will a slow down really mean? Rents are among the highest in the world, and still rising at some of the fastest paces; so what does a slow down really mean.
What I see is a major shift in the Seattle area home values that isn’t a bubble, but a giant ballooning expansion. Yes, the expansion will decline at some point; yes we could have some home values be somewhat in a bubble, but the general economic factors for these home values to stay up are much more likely than we’ve ever had in this region. Geo-political events can affect us; certainly; but this gigantic increase in our population seems likely to keep our housing in high demand for the foreseeable future, even if ripples appear that create some breaks in the speed.
What does this mean for you? If you are a home owner, your home has never been worth more than it is today. It will likely continue to rise in value over the coming years. If you are thinking about selling, you are in the strongest possible negotiation position. If selling and leaving the area is in your “near future” plans, you may want to expedite those plans to capture this market. Yes, your home is likely worth more next year, but you may not want to tempt a ripple in the market that may cause a short term stop to your prized position.
If you are a buyer, be diligent and vigilant. Find ways to get any extra monies you can so you can be in the strongest possible position for a buyer in this market. Don’t be timid about stretching on a house–paying $465K for a house listed at $435K may seem nuts but with home prices rising 10, 15, 20% in many cases over the last year and expected to be around 10% this year, getting the home you want, at a price you can afford should be “the” critical factor, not what price you paid vs. what the seller might have been asking. Obviously there are limits but a good agent can help you establish those. The point is your frame of reference and focus needs to be on your ability to find and buy what you want. The rising values will soon reward you for your boldness.
The frenetic pace of the real estate market continues to frustrate home Buyers while rewarding home Sellers. The data shows 13% appreciation on the eastside from last year but for those of us on the streets and in the negotiations, it's not abnormal to see prices up 20% since the beginning of this year. Bidding on homes seems to have little basis on comparable values or sales data and much more to do with capturing that home, regardless of price. Business practices are challenging and changing constantly; trying to figure out if or when to delay reviewing offers; how to make counter offers; what demands Sellers can make on Buyers and what incentives Buyers can create to have their offer selected by Sellers.The pace and frustrations are dizzying.
Eastside prices are at all time highs, at just under $783,000 up 13% from 2015. Seeking affordability, Buyers have driven up the median price on condos to $345,608; that's 15% above last year at this time.
73% of homes are selling at or above asking price with an average market time of 6 days; a timeline created by Sellers and agents delaying the review of offers to allow more buyers to view the home and generate more offers. While the average and median over asking prices are only 5.13 and 3.75% respectively, anyone actively in the market knows these figures are quite often in the 15-20+% range over asking price.
A staggering statistic is that sales of $3M+ homes is up 94% over 2015; not surprisingly this is drawing more sellers and inventory has jumped 31% for homes for sale in this price range. I'd be cautious if I were a Buyer in this range as there just aren't that many folks with incomes to support future purchases in this price range. This could be a great time to be a Seller for homes in this range, while there is still optimism by Buyers. Beware though, the increased inventory can mean a decline in leverage for home Sellers in this price range relative to lower price range Sellers.
Seattle's statistics are just as bullish for home Sellers with price up 19%, to just about $637,500 and again condo sales and prices are rising for those seeking close in affordability. Median condo prices are just over $400K, up 21% from 2015. Sales in the high end markets, $1-3M are up 25-36%, while inventories are declining 17-33%. The high end has lower overall price points than the Eastside but shows a very strong market in both areas, especially for homes under $2M.
What's driving this strength of market and how long will it last are constant questions I receive. Job and population growth as well as near record low interest rates are the main reasons for the why; as well as younger buyers entering the market and people who lost their homes to foreclosure or bankruptcy in the market turn down returning to buy. Rising rental rates are also forcing many to seek stability of their housing costs. Average house payments are a lower percentage of incomes for most buyers than rental rates. So why not own if you can find a home you like and pay less to own it that rent it.
How long this lasts? This is always the $64M question. Some economists predict our region could see this strength continue to 2021; not to the degree of the last year but still 4-5% per year as our local economy continues to thrive and our population grows. Until we see more folks retiring and leaving their homes and/or the area, something that was postponed by many with the economic downturn, This should increase home inventories and likely lessen local demand but we need a lot of inventory to make that happen and I don't see that happening too soon. New construction is increasing but much more so in the suburbs and further out ex-urbs; still in-fill lots and small subdivisions are increasing. Any inventory increase is welcome.
So, if you're a home Seller, it may be time to capitalize on near peak values. While the market may continue upward, the bulk of gains may be had and uncertain economic conditions could reverse this quickly. If you're home Buyer, stay vigilant and diligent. Hopefully the typical July to August slow down in sales will come back for this year, along with modest gains in selection and help you find your new home.